Archive: April 5, 2017

1
Markush Madness: Watson Avoids Infringement by Adding an Element to a Formulation
2
The Laguiole trademark saga: Victory can be a double-edged knife
3
Proceeding on a submission of a graphic trademark – ruling of the European General Court (Anta (China) vs. EUIPO)
4
Threats Not Groundless Because Proceedings are Ultimately Not Issued

Markush Madness: Watson Avoids Infringement by Adding an Element to a Formulation

On February 1, 2017, in Shire Development, LLC v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that Watson’s proposed generic version of Shire’s LIALDA® did not infringe claims 1 and 3 of Shire’s U.S. Patent No. 6,773,720 (the “’720 patent”).[1]  In reversing the district court, the Federal Circuit determined that Shire’s claim to an outer layer “consisting of” a list of specific elements closes the universe of elements for infringement purposes, and Watson’s addition of an ingredient (“magnesium stearate”) to the outer layer of its accused product created non-infringement because it was outside the claimed list of elements.[2]  The Federal Circuit’s opinion rests on a strict reading of the Markush groups within the ’720 patent and a rejection of the district court’s broad reading of the Federal Circuit’s opinion in Norian Corp. v. Stryker Corp.[3]

Background
A Markush-type claim (also known as a Markush group) allows a patent drafter to capture independent, related claim elements in a single limitation.  The claim is characterized by the form “selected from the group consisting of A, B and C.”[4]  The “consisting of” language closes the group from including other members, such as “D.”  “Consisting of” limits an element to only the named members of the group, and an element selected from outside that group will not be covered by the claim.  In contrast, patent drafters frequently use an alternative preamble “comprising” to keep the claims open to additional, unrecited elements.[5]

Here, Shire sued Watson for infringing claims 1 and 3 of the ’720 patent by filing an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) with the Food and Drug Administration seeking to market a generic version of Shire’s drug LIALDA®.  The ’720 patent is directed to a controlled-release oral composition of mesalamine (5-amino-salicylic acid) used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  The claimed composition includes the mesalamine active ingredient; an inner, lipophilic matrix that “resists dissolving in water”; an outer, hydrophilic matrix that “readily dissolves in” water; and other optional excipients.

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By: Kenneth C. Liao and Peter Giunta

The Laguiole trademark saga: Victory can be a double-edged knife

The European Union Court of Justice confirmed the intellectual property rights owned by the French company “Forge de Laguiole”, but solely in areas in which it pursued an actual business activity.

A decision [1] dated 5 April 2017 of the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) put an end to the longstanding series of court decisions about the Laguiole trademark before the European Union jurisdictions (EU Jurisdictions), on which relied the right for French company “Forge de Laguiole” to keep using its business name. This decision also gave the EUCJ the opportunity to clarify the application of national case law by the EU Jurisdictions within the framework of proceedings based on Article 8 (4) of Regulation No 207/2009  (the “Regulation”) [2].

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Proceeding on a submission of a graphic trademark – ruling of the European General Court (Anta (China) vs. EUIPO)

The EU General Court upheld a decision by the EUIPO Board of Appeal in the case of Anta (China) vs. EUIPO, in accordance with which a graphic mark consisting of two lines forming an acute angle, submitted in respect of various goods from classes 18, 25, and 28, does not possess distinctiveness (case No. T-291/16 of 5 April 2017). In this context, it is worth paying some attention to the conditions concerning distinctiveness for a trademark that is purely graphic in form (i.e., that has no verbal component whatsoever), in particular in respect of goods such as footwear and clothing.

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Threats Not Groundless Because Proceedings are Ultimately Not Issued

In the UK, in a decision that will provide additional comfort to trade mark owners seeking to protect their intellectual property rights in the UK, the High Court held that a threat issued by a trade mark owner was not groundless simply because it was never followed up by proceedings being issued.

In Vanderbilt v Wallace & Ors [2017] EWCH 45 (IPEC), the High Court held that “the emphasis is on whether the acts actually infringe or, if done, would infringe, not on whether a proprietor actually sues for infringement. The phrase does not impose an obligation to commence legal proceedings for every act complained of.”

The case involved a long running trade mark dispute between the claimant and defendant, including several concurrent actions. In this instance the defendant had argued that section 21 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 established that where threats are made the trade mark proprietor has to bring a claim in relation to everything that is the subject of a threat, and that if they fail to do so then the threats can never be justified, even if there is infringement.

The Court disagreed. It stated that there are often valid commercial reasons why a trade mark owner may elect not to issue proceedings even if there is an obvious infringement. The Court will consider the validity of the claim on its own and whether the acts complained of constitute an infringement, regardless of whether proceedings have been issued following any threats to sue.

In addition to providing clarity, this outcome will please trade mark owners. Provided that they have established infringement they can send cease and desist letters without worrying about issuing legal proceedings that may not be commercially desirable.

By: Nóirín McFadden and Jamie Kershaw

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